Flexin’ Out: Flexible Bid Strategies for AdWords Ballers


Many AdWords account are trapped in the No Flex Zone. Sidenote: No Flex Zone is an awesome hip-hop song, so you’ve got that going for you (Play loudly while reading this post please, headphones recommended).

What you’re missing, however, is a method to mix-and-match bidding types for keywords that can function across campaigns or ad groups. Let’s get your account flexin’.

Think of Flexible Bid Strategies as living above your general account structure. These live in the Shared Library in your AdWords account. It’s easy to overlook this crucial area in AdWords when you are primarily concerned with budgets, performance, and conversions. Once configured, you can apply a strategy to a campaign, an ad group, or even a single keyword, overriding the default bid settings for a given campaign.

Find them by clicking Shared Library in the left hand curtain of AdWords.


The general workflow for Flexible Bid Strategy setup looks like this:

Create Bid Strategydown-arrowName Your Strategydown-arrowChoose Settingsdown-arrowApply to Keywords, Ad Groups or Campaignsdown-arrowProfitdown-arrowBall Out

Flexible Bid Strategies come in many forms, each has a separate use. Find them by clicking +Bid Strategy.

  • Maximize Clicks
  • Target Outranking Share
  • Target Search Page Location
  • Target CPA
  • Enhanced CPC
  • Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)

Some make pretty clear sense just from their name, others require a little explaining. Let’s review each:

Maximize Clicks – Get the Club Poppin’

No games here. This flexible bid strategy will raise and lower your bids dynamically to get the most possible clicks. ‘Nuff said.

Target Outranking Share – Bye Haters

Wave goodbye to the haters with my personal favorite flexible bid strategy. Target Outranking Share allows you to specify a competing domain, like that company across town your boss feuds with, and your bids will raise to attempt to beat theirs out dynamically. This can result in a #1 ad position for you in any search that both your AdWords accounts are competing in.

There are a few choices you will have to make with this option. Do you want to set a limit on how much AdWords will increase your bid (called a Max bid limit below)? Are the keywords this will be applied to low Quality Score? If so, your bid might go up a lot. Use the bid limit function! Do you want AdWords to set the bid in the first place? Or should the tool use your default bid? You can specify this as well.


Target Search Page Location – Autopilot in the Lamborghini

One of the major tasks in any AdWords account is ensuring that your ads are serving on Page 1 of Google results. Page 2 is so 2004. Many hours are spent auditing Keywords with lower Quality Scores or boosting bids to make sure your ads are triggering in the coveted Page 1 spots.

Source: People.com

Also 2004! Definitely not baller. Source: People.com

This flexible bid strategy can save much of that work by automatically adjusting bids for competitive keywords to keep you on top. There is one big choice to make with this option: Do you want to increase bids for a page 1 presence? Or are you aiming at the #1 Spot at the top of the page? Both are possible!


You can also set a percent increase to get the job done, but this isn’t required. If you truly care about the #1 position, make sure money ain’t a thing, or set a Max Bid Limit!

Source: Tumblr.com

Source: Tumblr.com

Target CPA – Handle Your Biz

If you are balling out full-time, please, please make sure you have a great certified public accountant. AdWords CPA’s are a different thing, but no less important. If you have a true grasp on the value of your leads and the lifetime value of your customers, you can bid for a desired Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA), rather than a traditional Cost-Per-Click (CPC).

If we do a bunch of business math together and you tell me you need a new lead for every $100 you spend on AdWords, boom, there’s your CPA. AdWords will raise and lower your bids while using historical conversions data to guess how many conversions it can get within you CPA window. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is referred to Conversion Optimizer and is available as a default campaign bidding option.

This Flexible Bid Strategy only works with campaigns & ad groups, not individual keywords.

Enhanced CPC – Turn Up Turn Up

Your business may not have the data to nail down a CPA amount, but you can still take advantage of programmatic bidding tactics with Enhanced CPC, or eCPC. This is also a default campaign bid strategy that you can now apply to a single keyword or a selected few ad groups via Flexible Bid Strategies.

With this method AdWords looks at users who have converted in the past and guesses if the users seeing your ad are likely to convert or not. Then your bid will be raised or lowered up to 30% to capture likely converters and save money on clicks from users who don’t look like historical converters.


Source: quickmeme.ccom

Enhanced CPC is an awesome way to turn up those bids when new business is in play. “Turn down for what”, you ask? Turn down to save some crucial coin on tire-kickers or ballers-on-a-budget.

Target ROAS – Dream Big

AdWords can’t handle a true ROI from your business. The tool dumbs it down to Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). How much do you spend on ads versus how much do you want to gross? This flexible bid strategy really says “Hey, I don’t care what the bid is going to be, I care about the end result. I’ll be in a beach chair watching the dollars stack”. Here’s an example of how you can arrive at your ROAS number. Let’s keep it somewhat in reason!

$8 in sales ÷ $1 in ad spend x 100% = 800% target ROAS

This will depend on what your typical AdWords per-click spend is versus your typical average sale amount.  You can set a bid limit when you configure Target ROAS, but why would you? This one is really about being goal focused and making your numbers work out. You’ve gotta spend it to make it. Try this one with your top converting keywords.

Your account is now flexin’ at a supreme level. Pop a bottle and celebrate an AdWords account that is working hard for you while you’re off doing baller things. Which Flexible Bid Strategy is your fav? Let me know!


Source: weknowmemes.com

Michael Bartholow is a Senior Search Project Manager. He has a special knack for B2B Lead Generation and e-Commerce Marketing. Michael holds an Integrative Arts degree from Penn State University and uses the same SEO & PPC skills he once employed to promote award-winning independent films to help businesses across a variety of verticals find audiences. He has Google certifications in Analytics & AdWords.

  • http://www.indiejudge.com/ Sufi

    You’re the man, see you on the basketball court!

  • http://webforce.bg Petar Bogdanov

    Hi, Michael. All these strategies look great to manage an Adwords account, but don’t you give too much control over the spending to the algo?

    • michaelb3600

      That’s a great point observation Peter. The answer is yes. However, with a mature and properly segmented account, this is a good thing. It can really save time. We are not giving over budget control, so we still have that cap, these really only apply to bidding.

      Outranking Share is the favorite method at our training sessions. Some folks need to beat that one competitor no matter the cost per click. I’ve used Target CPA with nice success several times. It really depends on what a particular business needs.

      Remember these are not account wide, you are only targeting certain keywords, ad groups or campaigns. You may target five high-performance keywords that live across separate campaigns and switch them to Target CPA or ECPC and really increase conversions. I recommend using Flexible bid strategies like that, as tiny target options.

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